Format: Short story
Genre: Humour, animals, family, angst
Characters: Aragorn, Halbarad, OFCS
Creator’s Notes (optional): Events follow on from “Cat’s Tales, though I hope this can be read alone. With thanks to nancylea57 for suggesting a thunderstorm.
Summary: Aragorn’s cat goes missing.
The light was streaming through the window when Aragorn awoke. His feet were cold and of Brann there was so sign. Halbarad was already out of bed and donning his clothes.
“Come on, sleepyhead!” he said. “Mother will have breakfast waiting. Don’t forget she wants us to mend the roof today.”
Aragorn sat up and yawned. He glanced out of the window at the overcast sky. “It looks like rain.”
“All the more reason to hurry then. Otherwise we will be sleeping in a pool of water tonight.” Halbarad secured the ties on his tunic and left the room.
Aragorn clambered out of bed and pulled on his clothes. When he got downstairs, Halbarad and Aunt Inzilbeth had begun their meal. Inzilbeth handed him a bowl of porridge. He glanced around the room as he ate. Inzilbeth’s cat, Lithui was asleep by the fire. Brann was obviously patrolling his territory outside.
Aragorn and Halbarad quickly ate their breakfast and set to work with a will, repairing the thatch on the roof. Halbarad was the more adept at the task as he had been taught how to do it since childhood, but Aragorn was quickly learning, despite the shortage of practise due to a lack of thatched rooves at Rivendell. The rain held off despite ominous rumbles of distant thunder.
They finished their task just as Inzilbeth called them in for the evening meal. Halbarad’s mother had prepared a delicious meal of freshly caught trout. Lithui mewed and came to sit by the table, looking at them hopefully with her clouded old eyes.
Aragorn tossed her a morsel of fish. “Where’s Brann?” he asked. “I would have thought the smell of fish would have brought him running.”
“I’ve not seen him all day,” said Inzilbeth. “He hasn’t stayed out so long before. I wonder if he has returned to his old haunts.”
“I’ll go and enquire if Mistress Haleth has seen him when I’ve finished my meal,” said Aragorn.
“You fret after that cat like the old woman!” Halbarad teased.
“Brann is a good mouser,” Aragorn said with dignity.
As soon as he had finished his helping of Inzelbeth’s delicious baked apple pudding, Aragorn donned his cloak.
“You’ll be caught in the storm, nephew,” Inzilbeth warned as the thunder rumbled again. “That won’t do your cold any good.”
“My cold is better and I shall not be long,” said Aragorn.
Raindrops began to fall as he walked through the village to Dame Haleth’s home, all the while looking around him for any trace of Brann.
The door was wide open and Haleth was ushering a variety of felines inside. “They don’t like getting their fur wet, poor things,” she said by way of explanation. She beckoned Aragorn to follow the cats inside. “I’m afraid I can’t offer you a seat,” she said.
Aragorn was not surprised as every available surface in the cottage seemed occupied by cats. There were black ones, white ones, grey ones, black and white, ginger and white ones, but no ginger tabbies. “I came to see if Brann had returned to you, but it seems not,” he said.
“I’ve not seen him,” said Haleth. “What’s this, though? Have you not been treating him kindly? What will folk think of a Chieftain who cannot even command the loyalty of his cat? Arathorn, now, had a cat for well- nigh on twenty years!”
“Brann eats as well as I do and sleeps on my bed,” said Aragorn indignantly. “Never was a cat more pampered.”
“He must have got lost in the woods then,” said Haleth grimly. “I don’t like my cats wandering off there. It’s not safe for them what with the wolves and Orcs!”
“I shall find him,” said Aragorn. “Good night, Dame Haleth.”
“You make sure you do,” said Haleth. “Brann’s a good boy, a cat fit for a king!”
While Aragorn had been inside the old woman’s cottage the rain had come on in earnest. Lightning flashed and thunder crashed overhead. It was madness to go near the woods in such weather. But what if poor Brann were out there, lost and along, his beautiful ginger fur bedraggled and wet?
Pulling his cloak tightly around him, Aragorn strode towards the woods. At least the foul weather meant that there were unlikely to be any Orcs abroad that night, but that was scant consolation for the water dripping down the back of his neck.
Aragorn called Brann’s name until he was hoarse. No cat emerged from among the trees, though. The sheet lighting illuminated the forest and Aragorn espied several rabbits and a badger bolting to their burrows. Of Brann, though, there was no trace.
Gradually, the thunder and lightning subsided, but the rain continued to cascade down in torrents. Aragorn was soaked to the skin before he reluctantly abandoned his search. Some ill must have befallen the beautiful ginger tom. What if he had been eaten by Orcs? There was nothing beneath the vile creatures.
Weary and sad of heart, Aragorn trudged back towards his Aunt’s. He had only had Brann a short time, but how he would miss his sweet face and bright eyes and the comforting warmth on his feet or his lap. He felt an abject failure if his father had kept a cat for twenty years and he could not even manage twenty days. For granted, his cat at Rivendell was safe and well, but there were few creatures that did not thrive there. He could take no credit.
Inzilbeth opened the door and gasped. “Valar defend us! Where ever have you been? I was about to send Halbarad after you. You look like a drowned rat! Now get out of those wet clothes this instant!”
“I couldn’t find Brann,” Aragorn said sadly. He walked into the living room leaving a trail of water behind him.
“Brann? He’s asleep by the fire.”
A ginger head was lifted off the rug and unblinking yellow eyes turned towards Aragorn. Relief flooded through him, followed by a desire to throw something at the cat.
“Now go and get out of those wet clothes,” Inzilbeth repeated. There’s more water coming in now than came through the hole in the roof!”
Feeling in a very bad mood Aragorn dripped his way up to the loft.
A little later, Aragorn’s spirits were much improved now he was wearing dry clothes and had towelled his hair. Inzilbeth had insisted on him taking the chair by the fire and poured him a glass of the mulled wine she usually kept for special occasions. On his lap sat Brann, purring loudly. Aragorn stroked him while he sipped his wine thinking him a very fine cat indeed. Brann blinked at him slowly before falling asleep.